I’ve been thinking more about my last blog (“What works?”), and whether other things are needed too for successful, supportive and healing work with families where there is child to parent violence and abuse. This was prompted in part by a recent Partnership Projects blog post from Peter Jakob and Jill Lubienski, looking at the importance of motivation to change.
Before everyone rushes in, can I say that I acknowledge that many families are highly motivated and have been banging on doors asking for help for significant lengths of time, and that the blockage is most definitely not at their end! Nevertheless, it is important also to recognise that CPVA impacts many different families and for many different reasons, and in some cases, families may be expected to engage in a piece of work not of their choosing. By which I don’t mean classic parenting classes. A couple of examples: one family may have been referred to a programme as part of a wider piece of work, or through the courts; or they may come to a service voluntarily but very clearly identify the problem as rooted in the child or young person, expecting them to make all the changes. If we identify the issue of child to parent violence and abuse as a relationship issue, then we seek to bring about change also within the relationship, and not simply for one individual.
As always, once I start thinking about something it pops up everywhere in conversations and reading, so I was interested to hear that this was something that other practitioners were tackling at the moment.
What stands out for me is the importance of time, to be able to hold families until they reach a point where they can usefully access a programme, rather than simply sending them away. This time might be used to build relationships and trust, both fundamental components of therapeutic work, and the building blocks on which change can take place (particularly perhaps where the young person has additional needs). It might also be crucial to be able to monitor and ensure safety. Being able to do this will depend of course on the funding stream and what is “allowed” in terms of length of engagement – how callous that sounds when you spell it out, but sadly that is where we are for some organisations with the current budgetary constraints. My hope is that the greater attention given to CPVA through Lockdown will feed in to improved and enhanced provision for families, coming not simply from an urgent need to “fix” things, but rather from a desire to understand the issues more fully and to embed a response within and across all services, giving time and hope to those who need it.
Well this could be true about so many things at the moment! The world we knew is far from the one we are living in at present, and yet the violence and abuse that too many families experience on a daily basis continues. The pandemic has driven a flurry of interest in child to parent violence and abuse from the media; but also people have been looking for different ways to conduct training, and so my diary has been rather taken up by Zoom events! For the last few months I have found myself reflecting in a more concerted way than usual on the progress of work around child to parent violence and abuse since 2010. Continue reading
Following on from my earlier post about the logistics of providing support for families online rather than in person, I was really pleased to be able to speak with Jane, a parent of 2 adopted children aged 4 and 6, who wanted to share her own experience of accessing help over the last few months. While she had been experiencing some difficulties prior to the spread of COVID, and she had been receiving help in relation to her older child, for her family the effects of lockdown were devastating as the behaviour of her younger child became dangerous and unmanageable as he struggled to cope with the sudden change in routine. Furthermore, the family immediately lost all access to support – formal and informal – and respite, which had previously kept them going. Continue reading
As we entered lockdown in March in the UK, there was significant anxiety initially that families would find it impossible to access the help they needed across many service areas, quickly followed by the development of an online offer, which has continued to evolve and improve over the ensuing months. It is clear that things will remain “different” for a long time, as we get used to living in this new world; but there is already a lot we have learned, and as always we can benefit from sharing and learning together.
In the first of what I hope will be a series of posts exploring taking services online, I bring you an interview / discussion with a team of practitioners in Bedford, using the Who’s In Charge? programme to support families experiencing violence and abuse from their children.
As we emerge out of lockdown in Britain, I have been musing about what we’ve learned in this period about the issue of child to parent violence and abuse, and about some possible answers to the kinds of questions we are always being asked: Is it getting worse, why is it getting worse – you know the ones!
Each of us has experienced lockdown in a unique way, according to our circumstances, but there are many commonalities. People have reported poor or troubled sleep, the intensity of living in close quarters with the same people and the “pressure cooker” effect as tensions build; the anguish of not being able to touch or hold people we are close to, not feeling able to comfort people in distress, increased anxiety with loss of control over our situation and lives. Many people have also experienced bereavement, financial difficulties or poverty of resources. Some have seen a huge increase in work and all that brings, while others have been left wondering about their long term employment. There have been concerns about the length of time children are spending on their screens, and about the mental health of both old and young. For some there has been the stress of supporting school work, for others the relief of fewer demands to comply with rules and expectations. There has been a notable rise in reports of domestic abuse during this period, and, alongside greater interest in the media, more people have come forward too to talk about the abuse they experience from their own children. Continue reading
It’s been a few weeks since I posted anything here (though I’ve been busy on other pages) but I thought I would treat you today to some ramblings and reflections. Like many people I am sure, over the last 3 months I have experienced both periods of intense, pressured work to tight deadlines, and days of feeling bereft of direction and purpose. Conferences, training events and report launches have been cancelled, and it is too easy to forget the hours of work and preparation that will have gone in to them by all involved. For some families, lockdown has brought a relief as stresses have been removed, and more harmonious relationships are formed and developed. For others the pressure cooker environment has increased fear and risk. Practitioners have been forced in to new ways of working – at short notice and without always having the kit or the skills – and yet some of those ways have paid dividends as they have learned to communicate with young people electronically – on their own “territory” – for a change. Being in Lockdown has intensified the sense of importance of what we do, but also the despair that things take so long to accomplish. Continue reading
The absence of consistent, reliable, and comparable incidence data in the field of child / adolescent to parent violence and abuse is not simply frustrating; it presents a significant barrier to raising awareness and the development of a comprehensive response system. It is not only that we have no solid figures to offer, but that there is no widely adopted method of counting in the first place, compounded by the understandable reluctance of families to seek help and become one of those statistics. A new piece of research from CEL&T and Northumbria University in conjunction with Northumbria Police, released this week, sought to develop a dataset which could be adopted easily, and would provide vital information about those young people coming to the attention of the police in order to better inform the development of services. This particular piece of work is one of the strands coming out of the 2016 DHR into the death of ‘Sarah’. The research, and subsequent report, uses the term CCVAB: Childhood challenging violent or aggressive behaviour. The findings were presented to the police on Friday, 24th April by Al Coates, Dr Wendy Thorley, and Jeannine Hughes; and released to the public on Monday 27th. Continue reading
Last week I was interested to follow a number of conversations about some of the consequences of Covid-19 on family life. While there have been many tragic examples (for instance, increases in domestic violence abuse and homicides, in the risk of child exploitation, and in child care proceedings), it was notable that some people were also talking about the lightening of the load for their children, the increase in wellbeing even, and the easing of strained family relationships. Continue reading
Some reading for you to occupy the next weeks and months!
There is a lot of interest at the moment in developing an improved understanding of, and response to, child to parent violence and abuse from within the police and youth justice services. See for instance the work within the N8 Policing Research Partnership in England, and also from the state of Victoria in Australia. Another important read from Australia is the PIPA project Report, Positive Interventions for Perpetrators of Adolescent violence in the home. The PIPA project aims to improve evidence regarding:
- legal responses to AVITH as it presents in different justice and service contexts
- the co-occurrence of AVITH with other issues and juvenile offending
- current responses and gaps in service delivery.
This is a post that has been a long time brewing. My thanks to a friend for her contribution in helping me work out the many issues involved. Any errors or lack of clarity in the way this is laid out are down to me.
The experience of violence and abuse from children within adoptive families has been well researched and documented. (See for instance Selwyn et al and the work of Al Coates and Wendy Thorley here and here.) Greater recognition and the provision of the Adoption Support Fund within England have made it slightly easier for parents to access help when needed within the last years, but it remains the case that many families feel let down by services who have misunderstood their requests for help, or their degree of pain, or even the mechanisms by which such violence might have come about. (If you are in any doubt about this, the website of Special Guardians and Adopters Together is a record of the anguish and anger of a group of parents who feel betrayed in this respect by the system.) I can speak personally about the individuals who have contacted me or spoken to me at events. Continue reading